Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2001

Publication Title

Michigan Quarterly Review






The Germanic words for home may have been derived from two Indo-European words: kei, which means lying or settling down, a bed or couch, as well as something beloved, and ksêmas, which means safe dwelling. These linguistic ancestors also yield the Greek koiman, to put to sleep, which is the root of koimeterion, a sleeping place or cemetery. In time, the word for home in several European languages (ham in Anglo-Saxon; heimr in Old Norse; háims in Gothic; kemas or kaímas in Lithuanian; caymis in Old Prussian, etc.) also came to mean a village, town, or collection of dwellings. Home is both a community and a safe beloved place to lay down your living or dead body for the night or for eternity.

Now, we use the word home to refer to one's fixed residence, the center of domestic life and interests as well as the center of the neighborhood, city or town, state and region to which one properly belongs, in which one's affections center, in which one finds refuge or rest. But in the past several decades in the United States, Australia, and increasingly elsewhere, home also has come to designate a building that is a place of private residence. According to the real estate industry's limited and desacralized definition of the word, home is just a physical structure, one's mailing address, for the time being. This makes light of the fact that some of the despair felt by people living in refugee camps or "homeless" shelters is that they are not homeless. They know where home is or was or should be. They know it as the place where they would most prefer to lay their bodies down, the place they dream of when they sleep, a place and circumstance that can't be bought or sold, that persists even when taken from them by bombs, tanks, tornadoes, eviction notices, or wrecking balls.


© 2007 Lisa Knopp

Nine-Mile Prairie first appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review.;c=mqrarchive;page=home;xc=1;g=mqrg